PROJO: R.I. congressional delegation, union leaders call for end to impasse

PROJO: R.I. congressional delegation, union leaders call for end to impasse

By Mark Reynolds

WARWICK — Standing next to union representatives for some federal workers, all four of the state’s federal lawmakers on Monday called for President Donald Trump and other Republicans to take action to end the longest U.S. government shutdown in American history.

The larger group and U.S. Sheldon Whitehouse’s references to the famous groundhog known as “Punxsutawney Phil” helped distinguish Monday’s presser from a similar event staged exactly a week before on Jan. 7.

Whitehouse set out to ratchet up pressure on the Republican majority leader in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, accusing McConnell of abetting the shutdown by refusing to introduce bipartisan spending bills to the floor of the Senate, where he says the legislation would win passage and end the shutdown.

“But we haven’t seen much of leader McConnell,” Whitehouse said during the news conference in a meeting room at T.F. Green Airport. “He’s become the `Punxsutawney Phil’ of the shutdown crisis. Down in his groundhog hole refusing to do anything, refusing to call up bills. And it’s time for our Republican colleagues to root him out of his hole before we get to actual Groundhog Day and let the Senate do its business.”

U.S. Rep. David Cicilline suggested that the shutdown is a political stunt that aims to, in part, distract the public’s attention away from various problems that have confronted the administration, including the resignation of Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and recent developments in the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

“It’s time the Senate Republican leadership recognizes they don’t work for the president of the United States,” Cicilline said.

Alerted to Whitehouse’s “Punxsutawney Phil” comments, a spokesman for McConnell, David Popp, said that McConnell has “spoken extensively” about the shutdown. Also, both McConnell and New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer, have both stated publicly that “there will be no more votes on this issue until there is an agreement between Democrats, Republicans and the White House,” Popp said.

U.S. Rep. James Langevin talked about two milestones in the crisis over the weekend: federal workers missing their paycheck on Friday and the shutdown becoming the longest such closure in history.

The president of the air traffic controllers’ union, Peter Geddis, said the shutdown has impeded the badly needed hiring and training of controllers at a time when the country has hit a 30-year low point in employment.

The shutdown “will only exasperate a staffing crisis,” creating more flight delays, said Geddis who is president of the local unit of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

Air traffic controllers, Geddis said, have not been paid for their work during the shutdown and are facing hardships as they log shifts without assistance from non-essential employees who are not working at all during the shutdown.

For rhetorical effect, Frank Womack, a representative of the American Federation of Government Employees, asked a question: Why should employees be forced to deplete their meager savings now?

“On behalf of those folks who still come to work like they’re supposed to, I would like President Trump to open the government full time,” Womack said.

George Nee, president of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, referred to the shutdown as “self-imposed,” saying that it is the consequence of a “selfish and illogical strategy” by Trump.

Nee drew a contrast between the president’s politics on the shutdown, which he likened to the behavior of a “petulant child,” and the work of federal employees who are staying on the job “out of a sense of responsibility and commitment.”

“This is beyond comprehension that we could be in this kind of a situation,” Nee said.

At the back of the room, an officer wearing the royal blue uniform of the U.S. Transportation Safety Agency, David G. Langlais, had just experienced his first weekend without a paycheck. On Friday, he had searched for a part-time job, he said, adding that he lives “paycheck to paycheck” and he worries about coworkers who are concerned with feeding young children.

“I just hope they come to some form of agreement and open the government back up,” Langlais said.

ProJo: Langevin votes to end government shutdown

ProJo: Langevin votes to end government shutdown

By Journal Staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On their first day in the majority, House Democrats on Thursday night passed a plan to re-open the government without funding President Donald Trump’s promised border wall.

The office of U.S. Rep. James Langevin issued the following statement in justification of his vote:

“I am proud that our new Democratic majority wasted no time and voted to end the Trump shutdown on the opening day of the legislative session. Two years of one-party rule in Washington have brought us an unprecedented three government shutdowns, and it is past time to reopen our national parks, restore small business loans, and pay the federal law enforcement officers who are working to protect us today without compensation.

“If the President refuses to endorse these bills, all of which have been supported by Senate Republicans, he will only exacerbate the harm he has already inflicted on the American people and our economy. He cannot continue holding hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contractors hostage over an ineffective border wall that is opposed by the majority of Americans.

“I hope the President will come to his senses and consider the best interests of the American people. The Senate should advance this funding plan, and the President must sign it into law to reopen critical government services and restore much-needed economic certainty.”

ProJo: Langevin to preside as speaker pro tempore at opening session of Congress

ProJo: Langevin to preside as speaker pro tempore at opening session of Congress

By Journal Staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rhode Island Congressman James Langevin will serve as speaker pro tempore of the U.S. House of Representatives for the opening session of the 116th Congress Thursday, according to a press release from his office.

“Presiding over the House of Representatives is an incredible privilege, and I am honored Speaker-designate [Nancy] Pelosi has given me the opportunity to take the gavel on opening day,” Langevin said. “The American people elected our new Democratic majority to enact a more positive and forward-looking agenda. Serving as Speaker pro tempore tomorrow reaffirms our commitment to creating a more inclusive government that works for everyone.”

Democrat Langevin, who is the first person with quadriplegia elected to Congress and has represented Rhode Island’s Second District since 2001, is the co-chair of the House Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus. He first took on the role in 2010 after a series of lifts were installed to make the speaker’s rostrum wheelchair-accessible. On that occasion, he presided over the House as the chamber considered a resolution in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“As Speaker, when America marked the 20th anniversary of the landmark, bipartisan Americans with Disabilities Act, it was my honor to implement changes to our institution to make it possible for our colleagues with disabilities to preside over the House,” said Speaker-designate Pelosi. “Now, it is my great honor and joy to build on that progress by selecting Congressman Jim Langevin to serve as the first Speaker Pro Tempore of the new Congress. Together, we are proudly reaffirming a fundamental truth: that in our nation, we respect people for what they can do, not judge them for what they cannot do.”

According to his office, “Langevin will manage debate on the first day of the new Democratic majority and as the House prepares to vote to end the Trump shutdown.”